Language focus | 23.11.2010

Official changes in the offing for Spanish spelling rules

Members of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) met in Spain at the beginning of November 2010 to discuss imminent changes to Spanish spelling which include the use of the letter ‘q’, accents and the prefix ‘ex’.

The RAE is the Spanish language’s governing body and forms part of the 22 language institutions spread across the globe. In December 2009, it published the new guide to Spanish grammar and usage, which had been over 11 years in the making and formed an extensive work covering all language variations. It is now proposing a new spelling rule book, which will be published in all Spanish-speaking countries before Christmas 2010.

The guide will no doubt be a vital addition to the bookshelves of Hispanists, translators and linguists alike, all of whom need to incorporate these linguistic changes into their daily work. The new rules are yet to be ratified at a meeting in Mexico at the end of November, but for a brief preview about what is in store, we turn to the news site www.20minutos.es.

The Academy identified some inconsistencies in the usage of the letter ‘q’ and as such the letters ‘c’ and ‘k’ will be used instead in certain words. For example, Iraq, Qatar, quásar (quasar) and quórum (quorum) will become Irak, Catar, cuásar and cuórum. The old form may be retained, but if so it must be treated as a foreign word and therefore written in italics and without the tilde – which shall also be removed from the adverb ‘sólo’ (only).

As for the prefix ‘ex’, this shall be attached to base words but ‘only if it affects a single word’, for example, ex marido will become exmarido (ex-husband) and ex director, exdirector (former director). However, it remains separated in the case of compound words, as in ex capitán general (former field marshal).

The Washington Post reported that ‘The aim is to have coherent spelling and avoid linguistic dispersion’. Further changes are to be incorporated into this new guide, but we shall have to wait until the end of November when all 22 language academies meet at the Guadalajara International Book Fair to discover the extent and the content of any amendments.

The RAE states that the publication will be written in a language that is clear and comprehensible, doing away with complicated phrasing and thus making language and grammar accessible to all.

Sources: www.rae.es; The Washington Post; www.20minutos.es


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